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CRAZYWISE: A Documentary Film

Mercer Island, WA, USA

Partners A-E

CRAZYWISE: A Documentary Film (Mercer Island, WA, USA)

CRAZYWISE: A Documentary Film explores radically different responses to severe mental disorders by both Indigenous and Western cultures. Through personal stories, interviews with mental health professionals, archival footage, portrait photography and animation, viewers will experience the stigmatized and misunderstood world of mental health treatment and individual recovery.

While living with and documenting indigenous cultures for over two decades, photographer Phil Borges repeatedly witnessed how a young person’s ‘psychotic break’ identified them as having shamanic potential. In contrast to Western culture, this youthful ‘psychosis’ is often deemed a gift. After careful training by an elder/mentor the ‘gifted' one becomes a respected healer or seer of the community.Back home, Phil is struck by how dramatically different these early ‘psychotic’ episodes are defined and treated in Indigenous cultures. He meets and begins to film Adam, a sensitive and bright American in his 20’s who has refused traditional medical treatment for his psychosis due to the devastating side effects of numerous medications.Desperate and feeling shame from being labeled with a potential life long disease, Adam chooses an alternative treatment approach embracing meditation and non-traditional spiritual pursuits. But life takes a grave turn. Adam becomes homeless and alienated from his family. Living out of a friend’s car, he connects with a unique, spiritual community who allow him to safely face his shadow side.

While documenting Adam’s journey, Phil comes to realize the severity of the mental health crisis in America. Many believe that a physical-chemical management of the brain will ultimately provide the most effective solution to mental disorders. Interviewing respected professionals, Phil learns how the advances in neuroscience and psycho-pharmacology in industrial societies have led to this current emphasis on ‘biological psychiatry’. 

This dominant biologically-based solution is being challenged by a passionate group of distinguished psychologists and psychiatrists, and by survivors of psychosis who believe the most effective treatment results can be achieved by, reducing stigma, effective mentorship and encouraging healthy personal/community relationships. Building on the success of a treatment developed in Northern Finland called Open Dialogue and Peer-to-Peer mentoring, a survivor-led movement is challenging the prevailing standard of how mental disorders are defined, viewed and treated.

CRAZYWISE depicts the stigmatized world of those who are struggling with their mental health and introduces us to the courageous survivors who are advocating for non-mainstream treatment approaches.



Mercer Island, WA, USA



CrazyWise Film

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